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What Happens When Russian Hackers Come for the Electrical Grid

Emergency training at a restricted facility off Long Island has aimed to minimize the potentially catastrophic effects of a cyberattack on U.S. power infrastructure.
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Photo illustration: Yoshi Sodeoka; Photos: Getty Images

Five times over three years, a desperate scenario has played out on Plum Island, an isolated spit of land just off the northeastern tip of New York’s Long Island. A large part of the power grid has gone down, leaving the population in the dark and critical facilities such as hospitals growing desperate. A team of utility operators and cybersecurity experts scrambles to get the grid back up, while hackers try to keep it down.

Each emergency was a drill held by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon’s moonshot research arm. Its goal was to expose utilities accustomed to dealing with hurricanes, blizzards, and other challenges to the reality of a successful cyberattack on the U.S. electrical grid.